Bowling Green City Council on Monday empowered plans to move forward with a solar project expected to be the largest of its kind in the state of Ohio.
Council voted unanimously to approve amended legislation for the American Municipal Power project to be located on 145 acres of city land along Carter Road.
“Environmentally, it’s a good thing,” said Councilman Bruce Jeffers during council’s discussion of the project. “I’m really happy to see this happening now.”
The project had been in the works since early 2015, but legislation to approve the contract with AMP was tabled last summer in anticipation of changes.
In the amended contract approved Monday, instead of AMP serving as owner and developer of the project as previously planned, AMP is contracting with solar developer NextEra, which will own and operate the facility.
The 145-acre site is planned to accommodate 20 megawatts of “single axis tracker” panels that can move along with the sun, allowing for more power generation during the day. The city is slated to subscribe to 13.74 megawatts of power from the project; it is not expected to increase the city’s power supply costs according to capacity plans for 2017 and 2018.
The project is expected to supply enough power for 3,000 homes.
Council President Michael Aspacher asked Utilities Director Brian O’Connell if it was accurate that, when completed, the project would be the largest solar array in Ohio.
“That’s what I’ve been told, yes,” O’Connell said.
“This looks like a really good addition to Bowling Green’s energy portfolio,” Councilman Robert McOmber said. “Now the cost has come down phenomenally ... I don’t see any minuses to this. It’s all pluses.”
Responding to a question from McOmber regarding any pitfalls to the project, O’Connell said “there are construction risks, obviously,” but “I don’t see a lot of drawbacks at this point in time.”
Answering a question from Jeffers, O’Connell said the lifespan of the solar field is expected to be 25 to 30 years.
During lobby visitation, resident Carol Riker, who said that the solar field would be just north of the property she and her husband own on East Poe Road, raised concerns about the project.
Stating they are not against solar power, she said “we’re concerned about the removal of 145 acres of prime farmland, good-quality soil. One hundred forty-five acres is a lot of acreage.”
She wondered how the power would be routed from the site to the city, and raised issues about noise, lighting, drainage, and whether light reflection from the panels could affect airplanes, as she said that area is a flyover space for the Wood County Airport.
O’Connell said that how the power would be routed is still in development, though he believed it would be down Poe and Carter roads.
Jeffers acknowledged that the loss of farmland is a significant issue, and asked O’Connell if a variety of sites were considered.
“We did look at other properties in Bowling Green,” said O’Connell, including at industrial park sites. However, those areas already had utility lines in place. Smaller sites were also considered, but he said “the economics of the project are helped by the size” of the Carter Road site.
Councilwoman Sandy Rowland told Riker, “I feel confident in saying Brian will work with you to satisfy your concerns.”
Council approved the amended legislation by a vote of 6-0, with Councilman Daniel Gordon absent. Gordon’s absence was excused at the meeting’s conclusion.
Construction on the solar field is slated to start this summer and be operational by Dec. 31.